JAMES, FEYERABEND, HARMAN: pluralism, neutral monism, and OOO

Very interesting post by Edward Hackett on William James’s neutral monism as compared to Harman’s OOO. I think there is an important link between James’s neutral monism and his pluralism, that I would like to see developed.

One of my favorite philosophers is Paul Feyerabend, well known for his pluralism. He is also known for his defence of eliminative materialism, but I do not think that this was his own view. On pluralist grounds, he was removing obstacles to eliminativism based on false ideas about scientific method and about the nature of language. Feyerabend’s own view, as can best be seen in his analyses and defences of Ernst Mach’s ideas, is a form of neutral monism (although this is not usually noticed by his commentators and critics).

I must disagree with a minor point on an obscure and very minor philosopher. Hackett says:

“James’s neutral monism … can explain why Harman (and any SR/OOO thinker) adopts a pragmatic stance towards objects, can fulfill what he ultimately desires, and keep in check the hubris of any metaphysical program to posit realities they think truly independent of experience”.

Harman’s OOO is pragmatic only about what he calls “sensual objects”, that is to say any object we can see, hear,feel, imagine, or think. He is anti-pragmatically realist about his own metaphysical “real objects”, posited on the basis of a parasitic relation to Heidegger’s philosophy in BEING AND TIME. He then proceeded to strip his ontology of this original context and give independent expositions of it. The best presentation is in Harman’s little pamphlet THE THIRD TABLE (for my analysis of this book see here).

Deprived off all the history of philosophy packaging Harman’s philosophy can more easily be seen to be both without the slightest justification and radically incoherent.

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2 Responses to JAMES, FEYERABEND, HARMAN: pluralism, neutral monism, and OOO

  1. JH says:

    I do not know what “neutral monism” is and that Paul Feyerabend was in defense of this view, rather than eliminative materialism, seems like a tough line to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • terenceblake says:

      Feyerabend defends “eliminative materialism” but he does not espouse it. He defends it against linguistically conservative arguments based on the principle of meaning invariance. “Neutral” monism” is the thesis that there are not two substances, mental and material, nor does one of these reduce to the other, but only a “neural stuff” that differentiates into both mind and matter according to its concrete arrangements. Feyerabend as neutral monist is a tough line, and as far as I know I am the only one to affirm it. Yet, it is implicit in his account of Mach’s philosophy and in his generalisation of Mach that he called a “general methodology”.


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